Author Guest Post – An Aspie Son’s Relationship with his Ill Father by Dan Jones

I am delighted to be joined by Dan Jones today who has written a moving piece about his relationship with his father when he was terminally ill and the impact Dan’s Aspergers had on that relationship.

About Dan Jones and Look Into My Eyes: Aspergers, Hypnosis and Me

Dan Jones is author of Look Into My Eyes, described as ‘an autobiography through the lens of Asperger’s Syndrome’ which takes the reader through from early childhood to adulthood, explaining challenges experienced at different ages and how he was as someone with Asperger’s at different ages, and strengths of having Asperger’s, what Dan has found helpful at the different points in his life, and what hasn’t been helpful, and tips, ideas and advice relating to different issues through the life stages. There is also an extensive chapter of tips and strategies for parents/carers, teachers, friends, employers, and those with autism spectrum disorder, and a chapter written by Dan’s wife about her experiences being in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s, what the positives are, what challenges there are, and what she does to cope and support him.

Dan (Born 1978, Chichester, West Sussex, England) is an Aspie (person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism) who has over 20 years training and experience in hypnosis, meditation, and the healing arts, including Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, Human Givens Approach, Solution Focused Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing. He has also worked for over 15 years with children, teens and parents. He started in children’s homes in 2000, then helped to set up a therapeutic children’s home, before moving into working with parents of children who were either young offenders, or committing anti-social behaviour and at risk of entering the youth justice system if they didn’t turn their behaviour around. Dan then managed a team of Family Intervention Project staff, as well as continuing family work himself, and worked as part of the Troubled Families programme.

I will now hand over to Dan…

An Aspie Son’s Relationship With His Terminally Ill Father

I sat down with my dad. He was propped up by pillows in his bed, looking like skin and bone, and in constant excruciating pain, yet he was smiling and had tears in his eyes as we watched a video of my wedding which had taken place a few weeks earlier.

Dad was dying of Oesophageal cancer. He had been too ill to make it to my wedding, so once I had put the wedding video together I took it round to show him. He told me how proud he was of me and how happy my wife and I looked together.

Every few days during the end of his life I visited my dad to help care for him. He lived alone. He had a couple of good friends who were helping, and my brother and myself. Between us we were looking after dad every day.

As well as looking after my father I was also holding down a full-time job working with challenging families, making time for my wife, and teaching a hypnotherapy diploma and other courses. I didn’t take any time off from all of this whilst looking after him, or after he had passed away. I wasn’t trying to ‘push through’ the grief, or anything. I didn’t feel any grief.

Having Asperger’s had some positive and negative influences on my relationship and ability to care for my dad at this time. I didn’t feel anything emotionally from seeing him suffer. When I saw him he would be screaming and crying in pain, often curled up and contorted with a facial expression of someone who has just been stabbed in the back with a hot poker with his eyes rolling back and mouth wide and strained. When I saw him like this I just sat there calmly waiting for him to tell me what he would like me to do. I couldn’t make his pain go away. I had offered to see what I could do with hypnosis, but he never took me up on the offer, so I never overtly used it with him. I did use a breathing technique with him while I was just sat there waiting to be told what he would like me to do. I would start breathing the same as him and gradually transition into breathing in a calmer, more relaxed way, as a way of trying to help him become calmer and more relaxed. He often said he would start to feel calmer while I was sat there.

Despite saying he found my presence could help him feel calmer he told me I was useless at knowing how to care for him. He complained at me about how I would just sit there when he is in agony rather than comforting him – he had never once during his times of being in agony asked me to comfort him, although once he did just hold my hand as he lay there in pain, squeezing my hand and occasionally looking up at me and smiling. He complained that I didn’t just go and get on with things like making him food, or a coffee, or sorting out cleaning. I would wait until I was instructed to do so.

Despite my dad complaining at me about these things I never changed, I wanted to be different and do these things which he had said I was failing at doing, but whenever I was with him, I behaved the same as I had always behaved. This was a negative side-effect of my having Asperger’s. I couldn’t shake my inbuilt responses, not even for my own dying father, regardless of how much I wanted to. Every time I would find myself responding the same way I had always responded and seemed powerless to change who I am.

When I found out that dad was first ill he wasn’t the one who told me. One of dad’s friends told me as he felt I should know. Dad didn’t want to upset my brother or myself. I kept trying to visit him and he kept refusing to let me. He was worried that seeing him would upset us. I told him I would be fine, and eventually he let me visit. Not once over all of the time that I saw my dad during the last few months of his life did I feel anything other than calmness. This ability to be emotionally detached was one of my Asperger’s strengths. I was able to get things done and to carry on with my ‘normal’ life without being emotionally impacted by the fact that my dad was dying.

Another Asperger’s trait of mine is bluntness. My dad was also a very blunt person, and he liked things exactly as he wanted them. As an ex-chef he definitely liked his food and drink to be made exactly as he expected it to be made. When people looking after him would bring him food or drink and he wasn’t happy with it he would be very blunt with them about how they needed to take it away and change it, and in some cases would expect them to virtually remake the meal, or the drink. If it was a small change, like adding a little more coffee, or sugar to his drink, or adding some more salt to his food I would do it, but if he demanded more than this, like remaking the meal I would refuse and point out that food is just there for energy and nutrients, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, it is up to him whether he eats it or not, but I’m not making him any more.

On the day that dad passed away he had died about an hour before I arrived at the hospice he was in. My brother was present with him at this time. Before I arrived my brother had already let me know dad had died. On arrival I was asked whether I wanted to go straight in and see my dad. I told them I didn’t, he is dead. My brother is alive and the person who probably needs to see me most. When I saw my dad lying dead in the hospice bed it wasn’t upsetting, I thought about how peaceful he looked now, how he wasn’t in any pain anymore, he didn’t have to fight anymore.

The next day I was back working teaching a hypnotherapy diploma like nothing had happened. I went back into work and life carried on. People around me told me I should be upset and grieving, but to me I seem to logically accept things and move on.

After dad died I kept some old documents of dad’s. Whilst sitting down with my wife a week later going through the documents my wife read a note dad had written about me when I was about 3 years old. She told me she had just found this note and it described me as I am now, but it was written almost 35 years earlier. She read it out to me and I found I could relate to nearly all of it. It was a note suggesting he felt something was wrong with me and I needed to see a doctor. No-one else at the time seemed to see a problem, and from reading more notes and letters it seems dad wasn’t taken seriously about his observations.


Seeing these observations and realising it wasn’t just me feeling I have been the way I am for my whole life, but I now also had a parent who recognised my differences that helped me to decide to seek an adult diagnosis or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Unfortunately with dad dead I never had the chance to talk to him about how I was different, for him to elaborate on his observations of me as a young child, or to tell him I am still the same now, but the notes were like a final gift from dad showing that although he came across as blunt, and distant, and people often found him difficult, and he kept himself to himself, rarely mixing with other people, and didn’t seem to say much, he was very observant and caring and wanted what was best for his children, and I did end up seeing a specialist, and was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s).

Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis And Me by Dan Jones is out now and can be purchased via the following link:

http://apn.to/prod/1542551196

The book is also available from other retailers as an ebook and paperback (retail paperback edition ISBN: 978-1326917340)

Connect With Dan

Website: www.alt-solutions.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/danjoneshypnosis
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authordanjones
YouTube: www.youtube.com/dan19878

A huge thank you Dan for visiting Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today and for taking the time to write a great guest post. Wishing you every success with your book.

Author Influences with Jake Parent

The past couple of months have been ridiculously busy here at Bloomin’ Brilliant Books and resulted in a two week break from my regular Author Influences feature. I’m pleased to say that it is back today and I have the pleasure of being joined by Jake Parent. Jake has written two novels – Only The Devil Tells The Truth and Cristina – and I will  be reading and reviewing Cristina in the future. Anyway, enough of me blabbering on, I will hand you over to Jake to tell you about the books and authors who have influenced him.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
My favorite author as a kid was Roald Dahl. I also read a lot of Hardy Boys books. Oh, and fantasy. And Stephen King. I just loved books!
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I definitely liked the reading and writing part. I’ve never been one for rules, so when it came to the nit-picky grammar stuff I was a little turned off. That being said, you have to know the rules to break them.
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read a wide variety of books, and I think all have a lot to teach a writer. I’m definitely a fan of fast paced narratives though, especially in recent years. And that has been a huge influence on my writing style.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Well, so far I’ve written a coming of age novel (Only the Devil Tells the Truth), and a psychological thriller (Cristina). Although their subject matter is different, I think the style and storytelling is similar enough that readers have connected with both in similar ways. So I’m interested in stretching that a bit. My next project is a crime fiction thriller series starring a female detective.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
There are too many to mention them all, but a couple who are great inspirations for me are Charles Bukowski and Maya Angelou. Two totally different writers with two totally different styles. Yet, I think at the heart of each is an ability to dig through pain and suffering and the ugliness of the world in order to ultimately highlight the sparks of beauty that make life worth living.
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Not really. My approach to reading is really to follow my instincts and intellectual curiosity, usually onto whatever is available at the library when I finish the book I’m currently reading.
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Plenty of classics fit that mold – Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn. And lots of new books, articles, movies, too. I’m constantly amazed by how many great writers there are out there.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
As the father of a new daughter, I wanted to celebrate the strength and courage I’ve seen in so many women throughout my life. The book is dedicated to single moms, of which Cristina is one. It was a challenge to write a female main character, but my hope is I did women everywhere some justice.

A huge thank you Jake for taking part!

Jake’s psychological thriller Cristina is out now and  here is what it is about:

Driven by a desperate need to escape her past, Cristina Rodriguez moves into a picturesque hilltop home with an ocean view. The same place where, four years earlier, a young girl was kidnapped and murdered.

At first, both the house and the scenic California beach town seem perfect. Fresh air. Fresh faces. And the ocean is just ten minutes away. But as Cristina and her daughter set about rebuilding their lives, they soon discover that the past is not about to let go so easily.

A gripping psychological thriller by a #1 Amazon bestselling author, Cristina will grab you from the first page and keep you guessing until the very end.

About Jake

Jake Parent is the author of Cristina, a new psychological suspense novel. His first book, Only the Devil Tells the Truth, was a #1 Amazon Bestseller. His influences include Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, Honoré de Balzac, Ella Fitzgerald, John Sanford, Jimi Hendrix, Ernest Hemingway, Greg Graffin, Pablo Picasso, Rickey Henderson, and Mac Dre. He grew up in San Jose, CA but now lives in the Washington, DC area. Sign up to receive alerts about new releases from Jake Parent (and that’s the only thing that ever gets sent to this list): http://eepurl.com/bXzepr

Connect with Jake

Cristina on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cRqQX9
Jake Parent website: http://www.jakedparent.com
Jake Parent on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jakedparent
Jake Parent on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jakedparentwrites/
Jake Parent on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/JakeParentBooks

 

Book Review – Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

The Blurb

Tall Oaks is an idyllic small town, until the disappearance of a young child throws the tight-knit community into crisis.

Jess Monroe, the boy’s distraught mother, is simultaneously leading the search and battling her own grief and self-destructive behaviour. Her neighbours watch on, their sympathy masking a string of dark secrets.

This is a small town where nothing is as it seems, and everyone has something to hide. And as the investigation draws towards a climax, prepare for a devastating final twist…

Dark but laugh-out-loud funny, full of suspense and packed with twists, this brilliant new thriller is like nothing you’ve read before.

My Thoughts

‘’’We’re all fucked-up in one way or another.’’’

I have had Tall Oaks sitting on my Kindle for a while and have been dying to get around to reading it, but never seemed to find the time. Fellow reviewers and bloggers have raved about it, and I had to see if it lived up to the hype.

Whitaker’s debut novel centres around the small American town of Tall Oaks. A close-knit, well-heeled neighbourhood with a small crime rate, Tall Oaks has been rocked by the disappearance of three-year old Harry Monroe. This is not, however, your run-of-the-mill crime novel. Tall Oaks is a novel about community, facades and never really knowing what goes on behind closed doors.

I was impressed by Whitaker’s writing. Despite being British he pulls off the American setting perfectly, and I never once felt I was anywhere other than the USA. For the duration it takes to read Tall Oaks you are fully immersed in this very American town and living and breathing amongst its inhabitants.

With a large cast of characters, it would be easy for some to have more of a peripheral feel, but each one has been carefully thought out and developed to the point that they all leave their mark on you. Incredibly well plotted, the intertwining nature of their lives works perfectly with Whitaker skilfully holding back enough information to add intrigue and then weaving it all together flawlessly at the end. It is hard to believe that this is Whitaker’s debut novel.

Tall Oaks is dark and emotional yet very funny. It relies on the individual stories of each town member to bring it to fruition and I adored this aspect. It made me laugh and at the same time moved me. The gradual unfurling of secrets helps you identify with each and every character while simultaneously throwing you off the scent of the story at its core, resulting in an ending that took me completely off-guard and yet made perfect sense.

Quite unlike anything I have read before, Tall Oaks is quirky, refreshing and compelling. It is one of those books that leaves you feeling upset that you won’t ever experience it for the first time again, but you know you will find yourself re-reading it to look for clues you may have missed the first time around. A work of pure brilliance!

Published on eBook on 7 April 2016 and paperback on 8 September 2016 by Twenty7 (Bonnier Zaffre).

Thank you to Chris Whitaker, Bonnier Zaffre and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Blog Tour – Deadly Game by Matt Johnson *Book Review*

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on the Deadly Game blog tour and sharing my review of Matt Johnson’s amazing new thriller. But first a little bit about what Deadly Game is about… 

The Blurb

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed.

Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all…

Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.

My Thoughts

Deadly Game is the second book in the Robert Finlay series, the first being Wicked Game. I have to confess to not having read the first book and I did worry initially that Deadly Game wouldn’t work as a standalone. I didn’t have to worry as Johnson has written the book in such a way that you get enough information about what happened in the first book making it easy to pick up and follow.

Police Inspector Robert Finlay has been assigned to a new team to investigate people trafficking and the sex-slave industry. This brings him, inevitably, into contact with a ruthless Eastern European gang intent on keeping their business going. This becomes personal when the life of a fellow police officer comes under threat. We learn that in the previous book attempts were made to take Robert and his family’s life and this threat has not yet fully diminished, leading you into a world of spies, terrorism and conspiracies.

The prologue draws you in immediately and sets the tone for the rest of the book. The tension you initially feel does not let up as Deadly Game twists and turns its way through to its dramatic and breath taking conclusion. The writing is slick and smooth with short chapters that tease and keep you turning those pages. I found myself muttering ‘oh my God’ frequently to the book. I could really see Deadly Game on the big screen, it would make a great movie!

Characters, whether good or bad, are really important to me in a book. Robert Finlay comes across as real and authentic, and Johnson has done a great job in creating a believable character. As ex-SAS and recently having had his and his family’s life on the line he is suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the dark and frantic nature of the book, Johnson has portrayed this aspect in a sympathetic, knowledgeable way. It does not get in the way of the character, rather the subtle way it is dealt with adds to the character and those around him. Finlay is really likeable and I will definitely be following his story throughout the rest of the series.

There is so much going on in Deadly Game, and with dual storylines it could easily get muddled and confusing but Johnson pulls it off seamlessly. This is not your straight forward detective story and I really enjoyed the thread involving MI5 and MI6 which gives it a real edge. With conspiracies, cover-ups and doubts over who is to be trusted, Deadly Game is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes throughout.

Johnson has created a gritty and current novel dealing with, sadly, very real issues. It is disturbing yet credible and has a real intelligence behind it. Days after finishing the book I still find myself worrying about one of the characters demonstrating just how immersed you become in this book. I eagerly anticipate the next book in the series.

Highly recommended, Deadly Game is tense, topical, exciting and gripping. More than ‘just’ a detective novel it really packs a punch and leaves you breathless!

Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda.

A huge thank you to Matt Johnson and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

Book Review – Fearne Fairy And The Landing Lesson by Sarah Hill

The Blurb

Will Fearne Fairy finally master the art of landing? Who will help her overcome her flying flaw? Find out in this 10th enchanting story from the award-winning Whimsy Wood Series.

My Thoughts

Fearne Fairy and the Landing Lesson is book 10 in The Whimsey Wood Series and sees the return of Fearne Fairy and Mustard the Magpie Moth Caterpillar. It is May in Whimsey Wood and Fearne finally takes the plunge and has some landing lessons. Fearne has not mastered the art of landing resulting in bumps, bruises and broken objects. While this is the 10th book, it works equally as well as a standalone.

Fearne is not the perfect fairy – her flying skills and singing voice leave a lot to be desired – and this makes her all the more likeable as, let’s face it, none of us are perfect.

There is so much attention to detail in this book, with Sarah Hill beautifully creating the world around Fearne and her woodland friends. I loved the descriptions of the furniture within Fearne’s house and her clothing. Young imaginations are sure to be fired by this gorgeous tale.

Hill’s use of alliteration adds humour and children will have great fun saying these phrases aloud and parents will enjoying reading them out loud. A great way for kids to learn and remember words, Fearne Fairy and the Landing Lesson is both educational and a lot of fun.

The illustrations are gorgeous and fit with the story perfectly while providing much to look at and discuss.

A great book that both children and adults will enjoy. It’s ‘Bzz-illiant’ as Bristle Bumblebee would say. Highly recommended.

A huge thank you to Sarah Hill for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Published on 24 November 2016 by Abela Publishing.

Publication Day Excerpt – A Manor In Cornwall by Laura Briggs

Those of you who regularly read my blog may remember that I reviewed Laura Briggs’ A Wedding In Cornwall and A Christmas In Cornwall. Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the celebrations of the publication of  A Manor In Cornwall, the fourth book in the series. Laura has kindly given me an excerpt of the novella, but first I’m pleased to share with you the blurb.

The Blurb

The fourth instalment in the bestselling, feel-good series!

Now that Julianne’s happy ending is secure, her career as Cliffs House’s event planner is suddenly busier than ever. Thanks to a Cornish singing sensation’s upcoming concert at Cliffs House, and her promise to plan the perfect wedding for Pippa, Julianne hasn’t a moment to spare for Matthew or his plans for a weekend outing at Pencarrow. But she’s determined to find a way without letting down Ceffylgwyn for its big moment, or disappointing Pippa on the biggest day of her friend’s life.

With a star-struck crew of volunteers, a persistent American event planner, and a seemingly ill-chosen assistant in the form of the village’s former troublemaker, Julianne has her hands full, as usual. And it will take all of her friends, a few surprise twists, and—of course—her beloved Matthew to see her through it.

Excerpt

The next morning, the winnowed pool of part-time manor workers waited for their assignments. I had a checklist with names divided into two groups, one for Geoff and Lady Amanda and one for Pippa.

“As I read off the names in the first group, you’ll be joining Geoff for stage construction,” I said. “The rest of you will assist Pippa with moving the furniture into storage.” I checked the name sheet once more. “Kitty — you’ll be helping me for this afternoon.”

Several pairs of eyes latched onto the dark-haired girl when I said this last name. Several more people were whispering. After a short pause, the girl began moving in my direction.

“What are you thinking?” hissed Gemma. “That’s Kitty Alderson, for heaven’s sake!”

“What?” I asked.

“She’s a troublemaker,” whispered Pippa. “Don’t you know she’s —” But that was as far as she got before she hushed herself.

Kitty stopped in front of me. She was slightly shorter than I was, but that was because my high heels and her battered red sneakers placed us at different eye levels. Her dark hair was almost black and rather untamed, while freckles were visible on her fair skin, across the cheekbones just beneath her greenish-blue eyes.

“Follow me,” I said. And I led the way to my office, aware that Pippa and Gemma were both watching with disapproval.

“Basically, this is a simple job,” I said. “I want the piles of paperwork on my desk sorted into separate stacks of bills, sketches, and receipts. Any file folders go in the cabinet by the big antique globe, in alphabetical order. And if I need an errand run, you’ll pop out and do it for me so I don’t have to leave while they’re working downstairs. Does that sound manageable?”

Kitty stood in the middle of the room, her hands stuck deep in the pockets of her old canvas coat. Underneath it, she wore a red hooded jacket and a pair of jeans cuffed at the bottom because they were too long. The only time she took her hands out was to lightly touch the globe, her fingers giving it a deft spin on its axis.

“All right,” she answered. She shrugged her shoulders. There was a decided lack of interest or enthusiasm in her voice, and a decided coolness — it was the audible expression of a poker face, almost.

Author Bio

Laura Briggs is the author of several women’s fiction and chick lit novels, with themes that range from wedding planning to modern Jane Austen. Even though she tends to write stories with a romance theme, as a reader she has a soft spot for mysteries, including those by Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. She also enjoys books by Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, and too many others to name. In her free time, she likes to experiment with new recipes and tries to landscape her yard (a never-ending project).

Author Website: http://paperdollwrites.blogspot.com/
Twitter Account: http://bit.ly/1ME9ivJ
Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/1JjeMoI
Official Series Page for A Wedding in Cornwall: http://weddingincornwall.blogspot.com/

Wishing a huge happy book birthday to Laura and I hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt.

 

Blog Tour – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Guest Post*

Hurrah it’s my turn on the Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski blog tour. Due to having a ridiculously busy month I couldn’t get Six Stories read in time which I’m pretty gutted about. Instead I have a fab guest post by Matt on ‘Tying Up The Threads’ Before I hand you over to Matt here’s what Six Stories about…

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Sounds good, right? The reviews for Six Stories have been great and this is one I will be trying to push up my TBR pile. Anyway, I will hand over to Matt…

Tying Up The Threads by Matt Wesolowski

I once went to a writing event and heard an author talk about how she planned and kept track of her plot lines. A great whiteboard in her writing room, spider-legs of red pen, like the web of some criminal investigation. That’s such a good idea, I thought to myself, I should really get rid of my shelves of skulls and odd trinkets, get a whiteboard, do this writing thing properly. Why do I do things so backwards?

I never got round to it, I’m afraid.

The amount of times I have tried to plan, to keep track of a plot, to make fastidious notes about characters and locations, all to no avail. These notes end up between tea-stained scraps of A4 that cower, unobserved beside my keyboard or else piled beneath books about monsters.

I just can’t do it. Every other aspect of my life is bound by logistics. All but my writing.

I often feel like that scene in the office where David Brent is being reprimanded and asked why he never writes anything down.
“It’s all up here.” Brent says, tapping his temple.
“It’s not though, is it David?”
I feel like I’m David Brent, ridiculous ideas pirouetting through my mind, never settling into a semblance of order.

What I tend to do when writing is start with an idea, an image then spool out a load of different threads in a story and hope for the best. Yes, that’s as technical as I get, I’m afraid.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s very rare that I know what’s going to happen at the end before I start a book, usually I just start and hope that somehow the end ties itself up on its own.

Which 99% of the time it does. I shelved a manuscript 50,000 words in because there just seemed no way anything would resolve. Maybe I’ll go back to it. Most probably, I wont.
I’ve tried to plan, I’ve tried to flesh out characters before I start, even draw maps of my imagined locations but they’ve all killed the story stone dead.

When I was writing Six Stories, I actually had no idea who killed Tom Jeffries or why, when I began. I just knew he was dead and the circumstances of his death. This was the quickest novel I ever wrote (1st draft was completed in about 4 or 5 months) and I didn’t research, I didn’t plan, I just wrote. The reasons for his death would come in their own time. If I kept writing, surely they’d come…

Believe it or not, I actually didn’t know how or why Tom Jeffries died until I was half way through episode five! It was panic stations for a while, wondering if this novel would end up on the unfinished, never-to-be-looked-at-again part of my hard drive.

I wasn’t going to let this happen for the second time in a row so I just waited until the solution hit me, which it eventually did (probably in the shower, I usually get over a knotty plot-point in the shower).

So there you have it; I have no strategy for plotting, no formula for writing, my characters emerged as pale things, skeletal; they took their forms as I wrote them, as did the plot.

For me, this is the most exciting thing about writing, that not-knowing until you are hit with a revelatory moment where, somewhere in some dark place at the bottom of your subconscious mind, those threads that you spooled out somehow knit themselves together.

Because who wants to have the ending spoiled?

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

A massive thank you to Matt for the bloody brilliant guest post and to Karen at Orenda for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Be sure to check out the other hosts on the Six Stories blog tour…

Blog Tour – After She’s Gone by Maggie James – *Review*

Chuffed to bits to be hosting today’s turn on the After She’s Gone by Maggie James blog tour. I love a good psychological thriller so quickly agreed to take part in this one. What did I think? Read on to find out…

The Blurb

Lori Golden’s family has had more than its fair share of troubles. But through it all, Lori and her sister, Jessie, have always supported each other. Then Jessie is killed. And Lori’s world turns upside down.

Devastated, Lori struggles to cope with her loss, and to learn to live in a world without her bright, bubbly sister by her side. Around her, her already fractured family starts to fall apart. And as Lori and her mother try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, secrets long thought buried are coming painfully to light.

Faced with the unthinkable, Lori is forced to ask herself how well she really knows those who are left behind…

My Thoughts

Having never read a Maggie James novel before I was keen to discover a ‘new to me’ author. When Lori Golden’s sixteen-year-old sister, Jessie, fails to return home one night, Lori’s family are thrust into a rapid descent of grief, mistrust and suspicion as long held secrets are gradually revealed.

The prologue introduces us to a mysterious figure who is setting fire to Bristol’s disused buildings and serves to hook the reader in immediately. From there we are introduced to Lori hours before her world falls apart. I really liked the way James sets the scene in chapter one and the sense of foreboding she instils into the reader. Largely told from the perspective of Lori with brief glimpses into the thoughts and feelings of her mother, step-brother and the arsonist, you are taken along with the tide of emotions and individual worries they all have.

The beauty of After She’s Gone for me was the portrayal of a family unravelling in the wake of a tragedy. James depicts this brilliantly. The Golden/Hamiltons are a blended family and the small cracks that were there from the beginning become ravines in the aftermath. The doubts and misgivings Lori and her mother had about their newest family members become more prominent in their minds and take on more significance and meaning, resulting in the family becoming fractured. As long held secrets are gradually revealed they all begin to look at each other through different eyes.

I thought I had it all figured out in regards to who was responsible for Jessie’s death. In some respects I did, but in other ways I was very wrong…which won’t make sense unless you read it! James cleverly plants red herrings and the plethora of secrets within the family has the reader second guessing themselves. Who, if anyone, can truly be trusted?

After She’s Gone is a great psychological thriller which plays on the fear of not being able to trust those closest to you. I loved the combination of trying to figure out who had done it along with the emotional response I had to a family falling apart. A great read.

Published on 16 March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.

Purchase Link (will take you to any amazon site world-wide)
http://smarturl.it/aftershesgone

About The Author

Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

Connect with Maggie James

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MJamesFiction/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mjamesfiction
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/828751.Maggie_James
Blog: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com/blog
Website: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com

A huge thanks to Maggie James and Noelle Holten at Thick As Thieves Publicity for the advance copy and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the other fab bloggers on the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Mystery At Maplemead Castle by Kitty French – *Book Review*

I am absolutely delighted to be one of two hosts on the Mystery At Maplemead Castle blog tour today. This is the second book in Kitty French’s The Chapelwick Mysteries series and was one of my hotly anticipated reads of 2017.  So what did I think of it? Did it live up to expectations? You bet it did! Carry on reading to find out what the book is about and my review…

The Blurb

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

An utterly hilarious, gripping, spooktastic read for fans of HY Hanna, MC Beaton, Gina LaManna and Jana DeLeon.

My Thoughts

Mystery at Maplemead Castle is the second book in The Chapelwick Mysteries and heralds the much welcome return of Melody Bittersweet and her ghostbusting agency. I was very excited to get my hands on this book after loving the first book The Skeletons of Scarborough House (previously titled Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency).

If you haven’t read the first book, don’t worry, this book works perfectly as a standalone–although you are really missing out on a treat and should read it–as French introduces the characters in the first chapter which also helped as a great refresher for those, like me, who have a terrible memory.

The second case Melody’s new ghostbusting agency has been assigned to is at Maplemead Castle. Owned by brash American couple Lois and Barty Letterman, they have let out the castle to be used as a film set but some of the actors won’t step foot inside the place until it is cleared of its resident ghosts. How difficult can this be for psychic Melody? Very, when you add into the mix rival psychic and ex-boyfriend Leo Dark, reporter Fletcher Gunn who Melody should hate but finds herself attracted to and the ghosts of a circus troup! This is an unconventional, eccentric mystery and it works brilliantly.

The characterisation in Mystery at Maplemead Castle is fantastic. Told in first person narrative by Melody, French has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you are conversing with an old friend. I was drawn in immediately and found it really difficult to put the book down. You can’t help but fall in love with quirky, sugar-addicted Melody, her mother, champagne-swigging grandmother, slightly-scary-but-lovable Marina and sweet, geeky Artie. Then of course there is Lestat; Melody’s food obsessed, farting pug! You could really see yourself having a pint down the pub with Melody and her friends and family. French has also taken great care with the peripheral characters including the ghosts Melody has to try and send back to the other side.

The humour is wickedly funny and starts from the very first page. I love the references to popular culture French uses, demonstrating her sharp wit. There is also a depth to this book and I found myself being really moved by the final chapter. I was also touched by Melody’s experiences of being ‘different’ to everyone else and how this has made her feel throughout her life. French effortlessly combines comedy with poignant moments.

I love everything about Mystery at Maplemead Castle! It is quirky, has great characters, ghosts, a mystery, will-they-won’t-they romance and is pee-your-Wonder-Woman-pants funny! Fantastic…roll on book three in the series!

Published 16 March 2017 by Bookouture.

A huge thank you to Kitty French and Kim Nash at Bookouture for the advance copy and the invite to take part in the blog tour.

Purchase Links –

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2kQqows
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2kd2Qjp

Be sure to catch the rest of the hosts on the blog tour

 

 

 

Cover Reveal – Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft

I am delighted to be able to reveal to you the cover for Sue Moorcroft’s next book, Just For The Holidays. Publishing in eBook and paperback on 18th May 2017 by Avon, this is what it is about…

The #1 bestselling author returns for summer! Grab your sun hat, a cool glass of wine, and the only book you need on holiday…

In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…

A glorious summer read, for you to devour in one sitting – perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? And now for that all important cover…